Newcastle United look to have been blessed with a decent set of opening fixtures.
With nine matches now behind them, Rafa’s team have only played one of the current top eight in the Premier League.
Those trying to knock the United manager’s early achievements/form, claim that only once the stagger unwinds, and Newcastle face some of the tougher fixtures, will you see a true picture.
In comparison, Everton have faced six of the current top eight in their opening nine matches, though Newcastle fans won’t be losing any sleep over the struggles at Goodison Park.
The 10 opponents Newcastle are still yet to face, see them up against top eight sides Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Watford, and Burnley, as well as high spending but so far disappointing Leicester and Everton.
The two opposition clubs yet to be faced, that maybe look the easiest on paper, are Bournemouth and West Brom.
The big positive so far this season though, is that Rafa Benitez looks able to set up a team that can give anybody a game, with his reliance on a solid defence (only three clubs have conceded less) and then counter-attacking.
The one fixture so far against one of the current top eight was against Tottenham and in that match the team looked really comfortable, until Jonjo Shelvey’s moment of madness.
In fact, the struggles against rock bottom Crystal Palace on Saturday maybe sum up this emerging new look Premier League.
There are no real mug teams and other than Manchester City, no proper top quality ones either.
Last season you had 8th and 17th positions only split by six points, leading to an obvious conclusion that there is little between much of the division.
Last season they had the benefit of some real rubbish teams in Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull to provide the relegation fodder.
None of those clubs are in the current Championship top 12 and of course Sunderland only have one win from 13 games so far, as they attempt to instantly exit the second tier from the wrong/right end – depending on your perspective.
Newcastle’s other two defeats have come against the promoted pair who maybe most neutrals would have seen as United’s easiest fixtures – but net spends of over £40m for both in the summer, compared to only £11.5m for Newcastle, have helped both Huddersfield and Brighton to look no mugs, especially with the pair appearing to have decent managers.
Burnley away and Bournemouth home are up next for Rafa Benitez, another four points from those would give Newcastle a nice look of 18 points from 11 games, before then facing Manchester United at Old Trafford.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how Rafa’s team can do at Old Trafford and whether his team can surprise opposition who no doubt will be thinking of three points.
It is great having a team who can at last compete in every game, though of course we don’t always expect to win.